New York Times: Searching for a Way to Share History
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA — On a balmy Saturday afternoon, there was a real sense of anticipation among the hundreds of students sitting in a lecture theater at Immanuel Kant State University, awaiting a rare chance to quiz the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and Russia — Guido Westerwelle, Radek Sikorski and Sergey V. Lavrov.
Kaliningrad was once called Königsberg, the first capital of Prussia and birthplace of Kant. In 1945, it was conquered and annexed by the Soviets. Since the end of the Cold War and the independence of Lithuania from the Soviet Union, Kaliningrad has been an exclave of Russia. It is 320 kilometers, or 200 miles, from Russia proper and sandwiched between Lithuania and Poland, both E.U. and NATO members.
Here, the students witnessed the establishment of a German-Polish-Russian forum designed to encourage a rapprochement among three countries with fundamentally different historical narratives of World War II.
Any such process would ultimately mean Russia confronting its past, particularly Stalinist crimes and the gulags, and reassessing its role as victim and victor during and after World War II. It would also mean Russia embracing the European idea of dealing with memory and the past, now so much a part of the European identity.
“Being European is about being aware of what we did,” said Ivan Krastev, historian and chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia. ...